Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Thoughts Upon Rereading The Core by Leigh Bortins

I just reread The Core by Leigh Bortins.  I had to reread it because I didn't glean much from my first time through the book.  But, this time, I came back to it with "a different brain,"as Bortins would say. I had a better understanding of the book because I had been reading and listening to classical educators talk about classical education for several months, so, quite naturally, I was able to glean more this time through.

And actually, this illustrates the classical model of learning that Bortins explains in The Core. She says we all go through three stages as we learn anything new.  First, we memorize the vocabulary and rules about a new topic, the basics. This is what Bortins calls the grammar stage of learning.  This may take place over years or just a few days, depending on how much we work at it.  If we are really interested in something, mastering the grammar of that topic may only take days.  Next, we begin to understand the topic logically and make all sorts of interesting connections about it and other topics.  She and other classical educators call this the logic stage. And finally, we become so familiar with the topic that we can explain it to someone else.  This is the last stage of learning, the stage of mastery, called the rhetoric stage. So, while I was reading The Core the first time, I was still learning the grammar of classical education. I was still becoming familiar with the terms Bortins and other classical educators use, so I wasn't able to really delve into the material. But, the second time through the book, I knew the lingo, so I gleaned much, much more.  And now, with this blog post, I am able to explain it to you, so I guess that makes me rhetorical!

Anyway, I think this book is a good fit for other "Well-Trained Mind" homeschooling types like me.  If you are classically bent, this book is one you will want to have in your arsenal.  But, if you hate "The Well-Trained Mind" and other books like it, you won't like this book either.

That said, even if you are classically bent, you may be put off by Bortins's style. She is very frank.  Reading her book is like listening to a seasoned home school mom tell you how she really managed to educate her kids as well as she did, only at times, it is like she's talking to you before she's had her morning coffee. Bortins doesn't qualify her statements like many authors do these days so that her readers don't get offended. She doesn't go out of her way to make sure you don't imply something that she doesn't mean.  Here's one quote that I think reflects what I am talking about.

"Success comes from doing schooling every day and not missing opportunities to do more when lying around sick or when it is raining or too hot to be outside."

I had to chuckle at her frankness in this quote. I kept waiting her to say, "But, of course, if your child is very sick..." but she never did. Still, I don't believe Bortins actually means that a kid with a raging fever should be propped up at the table so they can still do their school work. I give her the benefit of the doubt because in other places in the book, she talks about snuggling with her boys throughout the day and things like that. But, from what Bortins doesn't say at times like this, you can imply that she thinks parents who home school should be doing the hard work of teaching their kids and that they should take their responsibility seriously. 

I am taking away at least one very practical piece of advice that I plan to apply to my home school right away.  I am going to make my kids set a timer and do thirty minutes of math everyday from now on. Bortins says that her boys were able to work through more than one math textbook every year because they would work for thirty minutes and do as much math as they could in that time period instead of just quitting after they had finished one lesson for the day.  Math is a weak area for us and we are slow to get through our one, singular textbook each year, so I think Bortins's advice will help us solve both those problems.

Bortins recommends several books and resources as she discusses all the different subjects. I've added a few books to my "must read" list because my interest has been peeked by what Bortins said about them.  Two books I am planning to read are "Do Hard Things" and "Amusing Ourselves to Death."  Both sound amazing and I love it when one book leads to another.